What was the inspiration behind setting up Helen's Bay Organic Farm?
Starting my own organic farm was always an itch I had to scratch, it felt like an inevitable progression for me. Earlier in my life, I had been given a grant by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists to travel around the world and visit organic farms. This is what inspired me to evolve my passion for growing from the garden to a farm of my own. Day to day, my inspiration comes from seeing the increase in biodiversity and soil health on my farm, I can see the positive impact our hard work is making possible. I believe we are in the middle of two challenges, a biodiversity crash and climate change, Organic agriculture is an important part of the solution.
Who buys your fresh, local, and seasonal produce?
A large majority of our vegetables are bought by families who live in a 15-mile radius from the farm. Lots of people in Northern Ireland and Belfast care about buying local organic produce. We have stalls set up in St Georges market, on the farm, and we sell online.
Have you noticed an increase in interest in sustainable food after the pandemic?
I’ve seen an increase in people understanding the issues and wanting to be a part of the solution. I call these people ‘thinking people’ and have been seeing them more and more in my community. I’m happy to see the need for sustainable food coming more into the forefront. During the pandemic we had growth of 60% and, although this tailed off, we have still gained. We have also used this growth to start a series of YouTube videos about the science of organic agriculture. Which you can watch here.
What are your best sellers?
The Veg boxes! We sell to 350 households from just 7 acres of farmland, which I am very proud of. Customers are able to customise orders by size and frequency. There are also options to add or take away from the box. I think this customisable aspect makes the veg boxes more accessible.